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SD 16 District Map

Preferred Candidate

(photo from NYS Senate website)

Age: N/A
Occupation: Senator, NYS State Senate
Education: Syracuse University (BA); Graduate School at CUNY
Senate website:
Toby Ann Stavisky has represented the district since 1999 and serves as Vice Chairwoman of the Majority Conference and Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education.  Regarding reform issues, Senator Stavisky acknowledged the legislature has much work to do while pointing out incremental accomplishments.  She is a cosponsor of S.1614B, which would establish an independent legislative redistricting commission, and pledged to vote against redistricting bills that are insufficient in separating legislators from those who draw district lines.  She supports a nonpartisan Board of Elections and believes serving as a legislator should be a full-time job.  On budget reform, Stavisky backs an independent budget office and the adoption of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) for the state’s budget.  Her priorities include higher education issues (keeping tuition affordable and building public-private partnerships), and job creation and retention.  Senator Stavisky is also seeking to streamline government and save the state money by consolidating local governments and school districts in addition to increased auditing by the Comptroller’s office.  Citizens Union feels Stavisky is an able legislator who shows great knowledge on a wide range of issues.  We would like to see her more actively push reform issues, but believe she is a supporter of change in Albany, and thus, prefer her candidacy.

(photo from

John Messer’s Candidate Questionnaire
Age: 40
Occupation: Lawyer
Education: Aquinas College (BA); St. Johns University (MA); Brooklyn Law School (JD)
Campaign website:

John Messer moved to New York in 1991 from his home state of Michigan.  He worked in the Dinkins administration as a government fellow and as project manager for the New York City Economic Development Corporation.  He left government for private practice and has lived in the district for 20 years.  He believes his experience in the private sector building coalitions and working with different kinds of people will enable him to do the same in Albany to bring about change.  On reform issues, Messer supports independent redistricting, increased transparency and accountability of member items, and terms limits (while increasing the actual term served from two to four years). He thinks that legislators should be penalized financially for not passing the budget on time.  Messer is deeply concerned about the affordability of New York for the middle class.  He believes there is an alternative to what he identified as the current approach of increasing taxes and cutting spending.  He proposes that small businesses need to be incentivized to hire to create jobs and that reform of the state’s Empire Zones should foster the growth of new emerging industries like green technology.  Likewise, Messer believes consolidation of overlapping government entities and functions should be a priority.  Citizens Union felt that while Messer presents thoughtful ideas for tackling the problems in Albany, but he could not articulate how reform would be better served in Albany through replacing the incumbent with his representation.

(photo from
Isaac Sasson’s Candidate Questionnaire

Age: 70
Occupation: Retired
Education: CCNY (BS); University of Connecticut (Phd)
Campaign website:

Isaac Sasson, a lottery winner and retired cancer researcher, came 145 votes short of winning a City Council election in 2009 and this year, hopes to unseat the incumbent Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. He wants to restore trust in government and send the message to incumbents not to take their seats for granted. He has a long record in his community as a civic leader, Community Board 7 member, and tenant association president. On reform issues, Sasson is opposed to the “three men in a room” approach to legislating and supports much of Citizen Union’s agenda, although he has concerns about fraud related to election-day registration. He specifically supports budget reform that accurately reflects fiscal realities through the use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  He does not think independent redistricting as proposed in the Citizens Union-supported Gianaris/Valesky bill goes far enough, since it involves legislators in choosing the people for the commission. His alternative approach would be giving non-profit, independent good government groups the power to control redistricting. Aside from reform issues, he is a proponent of giving tax breaks to small business for hiring and ensuring New York is hospitable to business. Sasson wants to restore jobs in his community and forestall cutbacks to senior centers. He also opposes same-sex marriage and laments the lack of public debate on the issue. Citizens Union felt Sasson was reform-minded and thoughtful on the issues.  However, he lacked the incumbent’s experience, knowledge and know-how to make reform a reality.
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